The B Effect for Women Workers in Latin America & the Caribbean
This March, the UN honors Sustainable Development Goal 5, with a banner theme of Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. Over two years into a global pandemic that has pushed women out of the labor force and increased their unpaid work time, it is clear that creating conditions for gender equitable employment is key to achieving SDG5 and B Lab’s mission for economic systems change.
In the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region, B Corp Certification is one factor driving positive outcomes for women workers. According to new research from a group of Argentina, Chile, and Canada-based scholars, “the single most important aspect for the promotion of [workplace] gender equality in Latin America seems to be having a B-certified company.”
In response to a call for proposals from B Lab and Sistema B, and using an open-access dataset drawing on submissions to the B Impact Assessment as well as the self-reporting of over 20,000 companies participating in the SDG Action Manager, the research team identified a “B Effect” for women workers at Latin American and Caribbean B corps. As laid out in their paper, “Assessing gender (in)equality in businesses: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean,” B Corps in the region are leading on gender equality factors like percentage of women employees and amount of support provided for caregivers.
While B Corps in the U.S. & Canada display similar positive outcomes, the influence of the “B Effect” is significantly more impactful for women workers in Latin America — for instance, being a B Corp in an LAC country increases the likelihood of having a majority women workplace by 10%, whereas U.S. & Canada-based B Corps are only 4.7% more likely to be majority women. Even taking into account country-specific policies and socio-economic conditions, the “B Effect” prevails as an indicator of positive outcomes for women in the workforce. Moreover, “the fact that this effect is more relevant in LAC than in the North suggests that the B-certification has an important role to play to shape gender policies within LAC companies and is a key factor in achieving the SDG5 goals.”
B Lab Global spoke to several members of the multinational research team, based at Argentina’s Universidad del Salvador and National Council for Scientific and Technical Research, Chile’s Universidad Mayor, and Fairleigh Dickinson University in Vancouver, Canada. Read on to hear more from them about their project and the implications of these findings, and download a summary of their research with infographics here.
Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
B Lab: As scholars of economics and sociology, what interested you about the dataset from the SDG Action Manager and B Impact Assessment?
María Eugenia Funes, PhD., Universidad del Salvador (Argentina): From a sociological perspective, one question that arose a lot within the group was about the drivers that businesses have for answering these tools. We know the [B Impact Assessment] is probably mostly used by businesses that want to get certified. But the SDG Action manager had another objective. What are those drivers behind businesses going to the SDG Action Manager and taking time to answer these questions?
Rodrigo Perez, PhD., Universidad Mayor (Chile): From an economic point of view, one of the most interesting aspects of the databases was the fact that you can compare between countries. It's usually the case that you have one survey for one country and a different survey for a different country. At the same time, we have a broad span of years for which we can try to assess the trends in terms of the SDGs — how are companies behaving? How are they achieving the SDGs?
Mariana Paludi, PhD., Universidad Mayor (Chile): From the management perspective, which is my field, it is very unusual to find companies giving information regarding their processes, their practices, their initiatives. Companies are very private about their information. And also because they don't actually have the time [to measure gender equality] — SDG 5 is not actually their priority.
What is significant about the “B Effect” being more pronounced for women workers in the Latin American and Caribbean region?
María Eugenia Funes: Being certified as a B Corp in this region makes a difference as regards the amount of women that are in the company — the amount of women that are getting into managerial positions, or into executive positions, or into the board of directors. It makes a difference as regards the parental leave policies — which are also regulated in most of the countries. But it's also interesting to see that the amount of time offered to caregivers grows when companies get certified, and also having care support grows within certified companies. This idea that businesses can be active promoters of the SDGs and gender equality is new in our region. This “B Effect” that we found supports the fact that the state has a lot to do, but it's not the only actor that can actually make a difference as regards all the SDGs, and particularly gender equality.
Rodrigo Perez, Universidad Mayor: We have less policies of inclusion, within gender-oriented policies in Latin America. So therefore, the effect that the certification can make is larger in Latin America. But we still find that effect for North America, for Canada and the U.S. That means that even if the country is doing well in terms of gender inclusion and gender-oriented policies, companies can still make a difference. So I think that's very interesting, particularly for Latin America and probably for other developing regions. But it's still the case for developed regions.
Do you expect the B Effect to be replicated in other regions?
Maria Eugenia Funes: We really haven’t looked into the data on other regions, except for Canada and the U.S. But while we found the B Effect is stronger in Latin America and the Caribbean, there is still a B Effect in Canada and the United States. It would be interesting to look into other regions because these two regions, which are so different, still present some type of effect with B Certification.
In your paper, you mention that as a next step, you plan to “[develop] exploratory qualitative research about best practices of gender equality in Latin American B Corps.” What factors do you anticipate exploring?
Maria Eugenia Funes: From an intersectional point of view, we want to see if the actions that B Corps in Latin America are developing regarding gender equality are also addressing other dimensions of inequality — for example, addressing poverty in creating jobs [or regarding care support] for vulnerable women. Developing a qualitative strategy may also give us some insight on how gender equality is related with other problems in the region and how they may be addressed together.
Mariana Paludi: Data and numbers can only give you so much information. There’s something else that can come from storytelling. So one of the questions we’ll have for people working in B Corps is: what do you think about the B Effect? Understanding how B Corps work, their values, and if within those values gender is underlying — it will change the way we teach business. At the end of the day intersectionality from a research perspective is not just about gender analysis, but a holistic way of understanding organizations: how they work and what they value, and gender being another layer on that, as with ethnicity and class. More than just, “let’s talk about women and gender and gender identity,” when we’re talking about business it’s about values — what are the values of our corporation? What are we here for? I think that gender, in that sense, is going to intersect in our next steps with businesses ethics and corporations and leadership.
B Lab thanks the International Development Research Centre (Canada) for their support of this research initiative.